50-year-old Patrick Harmon (an African-American male) was executed by Salt Lake City police officers on August 13. Harmon, who was riding his bicycle when at the time, was pulled over by a police officer who claimed Harmon crossed six lanes and was missing his required red tail light. He wasn’t killed for the infraction, which surprises me, given the trigger happy, racist cops we have in this country. Initially calm, Harmon became increasingly agitated, especially when backup arrived and his record was pulled. It was pretty much all over at that point, bc the officers discovered Harmon had felony warrants out in his name (for aggravated assault), and proceeded to arrest him. Upset, Harmon turned away from the three police officers and bolted. Unfortunately for Harmon, one of our country’s finest (Clinton Fox, who decided to wear his Judge-Jury-Executioner hat) can be heard saying “I’ll fucking shoot you!” Three shots later, he does just that. If you’re a reasonable person looking for a justification for this extrajudicial murder by cop, you aren’t likely to find it. There is nothing in the video that offers a justification for him opening fire. Take a look:
The last thing I remember reading about before I went to sleep Sunday night (early Monday, technically) was the headline of a USA Today article about police officers responding to reports of an active shooter in Las Vegas. I hoped then that the shooter would either kill himself (in the United States, mass shooters are invariably men) or be killed before wounding anyone. I awoke Monday morning to find that the shooter–Stephen Paddock–had killed over 50 people and injured more than 400 (before killing himself) in the greatest mass shooting in modern United States history. Throughout the course of my workday, I was able to keep an eye on the news (we had it on one tv and it was slow for a while) and saw the number of casualties rise to 59 dead and 527 injured. Country music artist Jason Aldean had just taken the stage for day 3 of the Route 91 music festival when the shooting began. An estimated 22,000 concertgoers were in the crowd when the shooting began, which maximized the number of people Paddock could kill.
As with the 272 previous mass shootings this year, there are many questions about the killer and his motives. In the days, weeks, and months ahead, authorities will likely uncover some answers (though not all, since Paddock killed himself). For many people, one of the most important questions–“Why did this happen?”–has an easy answer. One that is apparent even before the dust has settled. It will surprise few people to learn that once again, mental illness is blamed for gun violence.
A murderer is in the news again (one I’ll not mention the name of–he’ll be ‘murderous racist’ for this post). The white supremacist piece of shit who shot up the Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 2015 wants to replace his two court appointed attorneys. Why? MR apparently cannot trust them bc they are his “political and biological enemies“. It’s no surprise that said scumbag doesn’t want Alexandra Yates and Sapna Mirchandani (who are Jewish and Indian, respectively) to represent him. Hell, I’m going to hazard a guess that some part of both attorneys loathes the idea of representing him. Absent legal requirements, it’s difficult for me to believe that anyone–aside from people who share in MR’s bigoted beliefs (a list that includes the likes of the right-wing extremists speaking at the upcoming horribly misnamed “Free Speech Week” at Berkeley)–would want to work with, for, or in the defense of the man who killed Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lee Lance, Rev. Daniel L. Simmons, Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor, and Susie Jackson.
Hs plea for new representation was denied by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals:
“The court denies the motion for substitution of counsel on appeal.”
I found I was surprised by two things after reading his request:
1. I thought “did this asswipe on death row really just make a request for new lawyers? Seriously? Dude is lucky to have any representation at this point!” But as I thought about it, “white guy riding the conveyor belt to death row makes request” in a society that routinely and unfairly grants advantages and privileges to people based on their whiteness really isn’t that surprising. Since the dawn of our country, white folks (even before whiteness was created) have been catered to and coddled, with their hopes, dreams, and desires prioritized above all others.
2. For similar reasons, I was also surprised that the judges didn’t grant his request. We live in a country where a drunk driving, “affluenza” suffering kid can kill four people and get no jail time, where a judge can rule in favor of re-segregating a town in Alabama (even with the caveat, that shit is rage-inducing), and where a rapist who was caught in the middle of sexually assaulting a woman gets a six-month sentence in jail (which was reduced to three months bc he was on “good behavior”) bc the judge “weighed both sides” and decided rehabilitation was the best option (Rehab? In jail? In a country whose prison system is about punishment, not rehabilitation?.
Affluenza kid? That Alabama town? The rapist (and the judge presiding over the case)? Guess what race they all are. So yeah, i was a little surprised that MR’s request was denied.
One thing I wasn’t surprised about though?
Some of the comments I read from people reacting to the denial of MR’s plea. As happens so often in stories that involve extreme violence or behavior that is beyond the social norm, many people were quick to assert that mental illness was to blame for MR’s repugnant actions and beliefs.
I wish people would stop doing this. To get there, I invite people to consider what these words mean and what message they convey to others.
He’s mental” is the same as saying “there is something wrong with his cognitive abilities and that’s why he is a murderous racist”. Once you’ve intimated that mental illness or impairment is behind the actions and beliefs of a racist killer, you’ve opened the door to the notion that cognitive impairment is the root cause of racism and murder. Leaving aside the fact that playing armchair psychiatrist over the Internet is most definitely NOT the way a mental health diagnosis is determined, claiming that cognitive impairments cause racism (or lead to murderous acts) is deeply, massively fucked up.
It’s also factually incorrect.
First of all, there’s the splash damage done to people who suffer from cognitive impairments or whose cognitive abilities differ from the perceived societal norm. Drawing a direct link between cognitive ability and racism signals to others that “racism is caused by mental illness”. Likewise, drawing a direct link between cognitive ability and acts of murder tells others that cognitive impairment is the reason people murder others. We live in a society in which people with mental illness or disabilities face a high degree of social stigma and pervasive discrimination. The last thing that they need is for armchair psychiatrists to pile on prejudice by perpetuating harmful ideas. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happens not only in discussions of MR, but in the comment section of every article I’ve read about mass shootings (curiously though, I’ve yet to see anyone claim that those who kill others in self-defense, in a time of war, or as a military combatant are mentally ill), and most pieces on racism that I’ve read.
Secondly, there are plenty of people who have cognitive impairments or mental illnesses who are not racists and not only have not committed a murder, but have had no desire to. Conversely, many people who are neither mentally impaired or ill have been racist (imagine someone trying to make a defense of the Confederate army with the claim “they couldn’t help but be white supremacist supporters of slavery. They were mentally ill.”) Some non-mentally ill, non-mentally impaired people have had murder in their heart and blood on their hands. Despite evidence that shows:
Most people with mental illness are not violent and only 3%-5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness
the belief that people with mental illnesses are violent is widespread.
As for racism…racism at the individual level (not structural or systemic racism) is learned. Murderous Racist not only grew up in the United States, a country that is driven by white supremacist ideology, he grew up in an area where that ideology was openly discussed. Celebrated, even. He was radicalized by spending time in areas that white supremacist rhetoric abounded. He soaked that shit up like a sponge. The harmful (and biologically incorrect) beliefs he holds about Blacks and Non-Black PoC are the result of him acquiring and retaining the wrong information. Not the result of something “wrong with his brain”.
Another way to think of it–you can unlearn racism. You cannot unlearn a cognitive impairment or deficiency.
I hope those making such comments can understand how incredibly wrong they are. Not just from a factual standpoint, but also in terms of the splash damage done to people who suffer from cognitive impairments or whose cognitive abilities differ from the perceived societal norm. Ableism is one of the many forms of bigotry that permeates society. It also cuts across political lines. It has become almost reflexive to associate the Right with every form of bigotry under the sun. It’s expected of social regressives to defend and uphold harmful beliefs about gender, race, sexuality, et al. Unfortunately, where left-leaning or progressive people can (in general) be counted upon to resist racism, sexism, or homophobia, far too many on the left side of the aisle are comfortable with ableism. We’re the side that is supposed to be more enlightened, more concerned with social issues, and focused on reducing inequities in society, so come on people, get with it: having a mental illness does not lead someone to commit murder and bigotry is not caused by cognitive impairment.
Does someone you know–a family member, a co-worker, or your seventh-grade history teacher–suffer from profound ignorance about the Civil War?
Maybe you know That Guy. You know who he is. He’s the guy who, upon hearing “the Civil War was fought over slavery“, quickly ducks into a phone booth (good luck finding one) and transforms from Chad Splain (that annoying relative at the holiday dinner table who thinks Black Lives Matter is a terrorist group bc they don’t protest in the “proper” way and who doesn’t realize his white supremacy informed-advice to Blacks on how best to achieve racial justice is neither wanted nor needed) to his alter-ego, the confederate cape wearing, totally not racist White Savior Man:
- he who can change the course of mighty comment threads by crying “Reverse Racism” bc a Black person called him a cracker
- he who thinks neither POTUS45, the Muslim ban, or the border wall are racist. And he knows what racism is bc “It’s right there in the dictionary!”
- and he who engages in a never-ending battle to “educate” people about the true reason the Civil War was fought.
Heck, even if you don’t personally know a supporter/apologist for the Confederacy, you’ve likely bumped into them online (if you’ve not met one of these, be thankful bc the stench of white supremacy lingers) and marveled at how distraught they are about symbols of the Confederacy being removed from public property. These are the people who look at statues of Confederate soldiers and claim on the one hand that the soldiers were heroes fighting against a tyrannical federal government that sought to infringe upon states rights and on the other hand claim that removing the monuments is an attempt to rewrite history (with neither hand even realizing the irony).
If you know someone like those described above, don’t fret. There is hope for correcting the mountain of misconceptions about the Civil War. They can still be saved. The gaps in their knowledge, their misconceptions, and even the lies they believe need only be exposed to the light of truth:
It’s 2014. After 23 years serving on the Latta, South Carolina Police Department, Crystal Moore found herself fired from her job. She had managed to work her way up to police chief and was the first woman police chief of Latta. During her time as Chief of Latta Police, she received numerous compliments and by all indications, performed her duties quite well. None of that mattered in the eyes of the CIty Council. Nope. She was fired for being a lesbian.
Earlier this year, Jameka Evans was forced to leave her job as a security guard at Georgia Regional Hospital bc, in addition to her refusal to dress in manner that conformed with stereotypical gender roles, she is a lesbian. She tried to sue her former employer. Both a lower court and the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against her.
More recently, Hollis Bulleit, daughter of Tom Bulleit–founder of Bulleit Bourbon–opened up about the circumstances that led to her departure from Diageo, one of the largest alcoholic beverage producers in the world, and owner of Bulleit Bourbon. In a series of Facebook posts, Hollis Bulleit, who is far from a stranger in the alcoholic beverage industry, revealed that she was pushed out of her job bc, drumroll…she’s gay (that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the homophobia she experienced over the 10 years since she came out to her family).
If you’re queer and you live in the United States, your job is not as secure as you think (here are 5 more people fired for their sexuality). Hell, not just your job–your home is not as secure as you think. Neither is your ability to partake of public services like restaurants or hotels. As of 2017, only 21 states (and D.C.) have statewide non-discrimination protections in place for LGB people (of that number, only 19 offer protections based on sexuality and gender identity). Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is very real and collectively, queer people suffer bc of that.
The discrimination we face begins at a young age. The social stigma faced by queer youth is enormous. Familial rejection. Rejection by religious organizations. Bullying in schools. Homelessness. Alone, any one of those challenges can be damn near insurmountable for many queer youth, but to have to face more than one? It can seem virtually impossible. And the stress such discrimination places upon queer youth can adversely affect their mental and physical health.
To my surprise (and probably many readers), we are not alone in our struggles. The stress we face. The oppression we endure. The discrimination dealt with. It’s not just we who have problems. There’s one group that seems to think they suffer as much as we do…that they face discrimination on par with the shit we have to put up with. Watch the following video, Not Alone (if you can stomach it without throwing anything at your computer or wailing so loudly that you shatter your screen and torment your pets), and see for yourself just how rough these people have it:
Pride Month 2017 looks like it’s going out on a good note. With 393 for, 226 against, and four in abstention, Germany’s Parliament voted to legalize same-sex marriage!
Religion did not play a significant role in my life growing up. My parents did not force me (or, later, my sister) to attend church on Sundays or Wednesdays, or Christmas or Easter. I’m sure my parents had a BIble or two in the house, but I don’t recall seeing a copy (my memory becomes hazier the further back I try to recollect, so they might have had one and I don’t remember). We said grace before big holiday meals like Easter, Turkey Day, and Christmas. Mom and dad would occasionally pray to god for one thing or another and mentioned that they didn’t want to belong to any one church, so they were non-denominational believers. Aside from that, religion was not a presence in my life growing up. No Bible was ever put in front of me, nor was I told I had to read verses before bed or other stuff many kids have to do. In fact, to this day I’ve not read the Bible cover to cover*. Church was such a non-presence in my life that by age 21 I had only been inside three churches. The first time was for a funeral. Second time was for a wedding. The other was a trip to New Orleans with friends and we walked around a cathedral (can’t recall the name of it, but I think it had some really nice stained glass windows).
For all that we weren’t a church-going family, we did consider ourselves believers, even if nominally. My parents used to say “we don’t believe in organized religion, but we do believe something is out there” (I’ve occasionally thought about discussing this with them bc the statement “we don’t believe in organized religion”–taken on its face–is nonsense, given that organized religion *does* exist and here in the Southern United States, we have evidence of it on what seems like every other damn street). I don’t ever recall asking my sister her thoughts on religion, though with the eight year difference (she’s younger) she may not have given it much thought until her teen years bc our parents did not foist religion upon us. For my part, I remember as a teen holding beliefs about a vague universal guiding force that created everything. I didn’t worship him (and yeah, of course he was a him, thanks patriarchy), but I believed he existed. When I finally started coming out of the closet, my views shifted a bit, bc I wasn’t seeing any evidence there was a god. So I became an agnostic. And when I went to college and took some philosophy courses and an intro to logic course, I ditched agnosticism and chose atheism (though technically I’m an agnostic atheist, as I don’t know for sure there is or isn’t a god, but either way, I don’t *believe* in a the god of the Bible any more than I believe in any of the other thousands of gods humanity has created).
One thing I noticed as I got older was how much in the dark I was about religious issues. My lack of religious background as a child left me incredibly ignorant on many things that others find mundane. When I first heard about PZ Myers’ Communion Wafer incident, I had no clue what a Communion Wafer was or what Communion was (now that I do? what a weird belief). I knew nothing about the Establishment Clause and how important it is to our secular society, nor had I heard any of the cognitive fallacies that theists engage in when trying to demonstrate their deity exists. I also knew virtually nothing about Judaism or Islam.
Then there’s the harmful stuff I knew nothing about. The morally repulsive stuff. The stuff that leads to an increase i suffering. Among the deeply disturbing information I discovered about christianity was the opposition of the Roman Catholic Church to the use of birth control, the Religious RIght’s war on queers, the use of the Bible to support slavery, and the history of child sexual abuse cases from the Roman Catholic Church.
Speaking of the child sexual abuse cases against the Roman Catholic Church, another example came to light today: Cardinal George Pell, the third highest ranking Vatican official has been accused of multiple sexual offenses:
This post discusses the two deadliest recorded attacks against the queer community in United States history)
What follows is a raw attempt on my part, with no practice at slam poetry.
Yesterday marked 44 years since a devastating fire erupted at The Upstairs Lounge, a popular queer gathering spot in New Orleans, Louisiana. This deliberate arson attack caused the deaths of 32 people and was the deadliest attack on the queer community in the United States until the 2016 shooting massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, which saw 49 murdered and more than 50 injured. Every time I think about this deeply, massively horrific act of barbarism, I am brought to tears. I am brought to tears because
32 people died.
32 people who loved, hated, and fucked
32 people with stories of heartbreak, joy, sorrow, contentment, apathy, and compassion
32 people who ate, slept, vacationed, worked, traveled, got drunk, went to church, loved politics, hated politics, and gambled and more
32 people who were siblings and parents, extended family and friends, co-workers and acquaintances, perhaps strangers even
32 people who had hopes and dreams, skills and talents, strengths and weaknesses, character flaws and integrity
32 people were killed.
No. Actually, that’s not right.
32 people were murdered.
Murdered in one of those “god I hope I don’t die this way bc this is unbearable to even imagine” kind of ways. But I can ONLY imagine. They EXPERIENCED it. I truly hope they didn’t suffer and IF they suffered it was for a brief moment. Death by FIRE and STARVED of oxygen and poison SEEPING into your lungs? Is not…is not…is not how one should die.
And when the inferno was out?
And 32 people were dead? Hearts were open. Aid was offered. Condolences were given. Around the world people reached out and shared their candle lit grief. And their solidarity. With the 32 people whose lives were TAKEN in that fearsome. fiery. tragedy. I WISH I could say with ALL of my heart that THAT was what had occurred.
It did not.
I can not and will not. Tell such a tall tale.
There is a tale that I can tell that does not require deceit. And in this deceitless tale that I can tell,
Not 24. Not 12. Not 6. Not 3 hours went by
Before reactions were heard. Before support was offered. Before commiserations were given. Before outrage was shared. Before the “what can I do”‘s and “how can I help”‘s were asked.
And not just Orlando. Not just Florida. Not JUST the United States.
There were lit Candles in the Phillipines.
A rainbow bridge in Australia.
Unity placards in England.
Remembrance in Denmark.
Mourning in Switzerland.
Gathering in South Korea.
Homage in France.
Vigils in Berlin.
And on it went. And on it went.
And so it went around the world. Country to country. People to people. The solidarity and vigils and homages and remembrances and candles were a response. A very human response to a horrific tragedy. A very human response to a horrific tragedy that was vastly different than the one that happened 44 years ago yesterday when:
Silence was heard. Silence so loud and so powerful. Like a Silent Sonic Boom went off. So loud and so powerful was this Sonic Boom that the world was engulfed in silence.
Jokes were made that packed a punch. Oppressive punches so powerful they punched down and punched down and punched down until BAM! The Earth’s core. And then continued to punch down some more.
A fearsome fire overtook a bar. Survivors feared the fire and fought the fire and fled the fire and found that they were fired. From their jobs.
In the aftermath of the Upstairs Lounge, the reaction of New Orleans officials, church leaders, and civilians in the city was unsympathetic. Jokes were indeed made about some of the people killed. Churches refused to allow memorials. Family members of some of the deceased refused to collect the remains of people who up until they died in that fire, were probably family members they cared for. But for some people, finding out that a member of your family is gay is “::gasp:: HOLY FUCKBALLS! Red is black and blue is sky and and nothing makes sense any longer”. Unlike the response to the Pulse massacre last year–a response that included vigils, commiserations, remembrances, homages, and so much more. And from as far away as South Korea and Australia.
But that was not the case in NOLA. Here, it was as if the city and the religious leaders wanted nothing to do with the case. They wanted it swept under the rug. They cared more about the image of their town than finding the killer (and they never found the person, either). For all that the Upstairs Lounge fire was the deadliest attack on our community until last year, far too many people know nothing of it. They know nothing of this horrific attack or the apathetic-at-best response from the city. In what could symbolize the utter lack of concern about the fire, one of the victims, the Reverend Bill Larson, had attempted to escape, but got stuck in the iron bars around one of the windows. People on the street watched in horror as he burned alive. And the city left his body there for days. Heartless as fuck. The fact that no killer was found (despite one suspect, a gay man who had been kicked out of the bar earlier and apparently threatened retribution; the man took his own life the following year) also points to the lack of care on display by the city.
The Upstairs Lounge fire is part of USAmerican queer history. It was a devastating attack and its aftermath served as a reminder that we were viewed as subhuman deviants for whom care and compassion was in short supply. In the years since the fire, care and compassion have been found in some cases, and cultivated in other, such that the Pulse attack engendered compassion in people around the globe. Please take a few minutes to read the full details of the Upstairs Lounge fire or familiarize yourself with the names of the deceased as well as the survivors. We matter. Contrary to what NOLA officials and church officials said at the time, their lives mattered. Just as our lives matter today. We are part of the narrative of this country. Both in life and in death. We expect society as a whole to recognize that our lives matter and that we deserve liberation and equality. If we expect that in society, should we not also expect that in ourselves?
- Joseph Henry (Joe) Adams, 51, comptroller, Sidney Espinache’s lover
- Reginald Eugene (Reggie) Adams Jr., 24, salesman
- Guy David Owen Anderson, 41, researcher, visitor from Illinois
- Joseph William (Bill) Bailey, 29, waiter, Clarence McCloskey’s lover
- Luther Thomas Boggs, 47, computer programmer, died in hospital
- Louis Horace Broussard, 26, barber, Mitch Mitchell’s lover
- Hurbert Dean (Hugh) Cooley, 32, lounge bartender
- Donald Walter Dunbar, 21, carpet cleaner
- Adam Roland Fontenot, 32, Buddy Rasmussen’s lover
- David Stuart Gary, 22, lounge pianist
- Horace Winslow (Skip) Getchell, 35, freight dispatcher
- John Thomas Golding Sr., 49, various careers, father
- Gerald Hoyt Gordon, 37, shipping clerk
- Glenn Richard (Dick) Green, 32, shipping clerk
- James Walls (Jim) Hambrick, 45, salesman, died in hospital
- Kenneth Paul Harrington, 48, federal lab technician
- Rev. William Ros (Bill) Larson, 47, MCC pastor
- Ferris Jerome LeBlanc, 50, hair dresser
- Robert Keith (Bobby) Lumpkin, 29, switchman
- Leon Richard Maples, 32, auto mechanic, father
- George Steven (Bud) Matyi, 27, musician
- Clarence Joseph McCloskey Jr., 48, sales manager, father, Bill Bailey’s lover
- Duane George (Mitch) Mitchell, 31, salesman, assistant MCC pastor, Horace Broussard’s lover
- Larry Dean Stratton, 25, died in hospital
- Eddie Hosea Warren, 24, cook, father
- James Curtis Warren, 26, carpenter
- Willie Inez Whatley Warren, 59, unemployed, their mother
- Dr. Perry Lane Waters Jr., 41, Jefferson Parish dentist whose x-rays identified several victims
- Douglas Maxwell Williams Jr., 20, truck driver
in addition to three unidentified white males.
- Theo Ancelet
- Jessie Baker, 28, beautician
- Philip Byrd, 40s, hospitalized for injuries
- J. C. Carrier
- Courtney Craighead, 30s
- Richard Robert (Mother) Cross, 29, salesman, Dean Morris’ lover
- Frank Dean, 34
- Jimmy Demoll Jr., hospitalized for injuries
- Francis Dufrene, 21, hospitalized for injuries
- Roger Dale Dunn, 26, hospitalized for injuries
- Sidney Espinache, 50, Joe Adams’ lover, hospitalized for injuries
- Richard Frank (Rick) Everett, 35, computer technician
- Frank Gaalema, 29, display freelancher
- Edward B. (Eddie) Gillis, 52, hospitalized for injuries
- Jean Cory Gosnell, 37, realtor, mother, hospitalized for injuries
- James Larson
- Adolph Medina, 32, wig saloon manager, hospitalized for injuries
- Albert Harold (Uncle Al) Monroe, 68
- Dean Morris, 37, Rick Cross’ lover
- Jim Peterson, 31
- Robert Thomas Price, 19, various jobs
- Lindy Laurell (Rusty) Quinton, 25, welder, hospitalized for injuries
- Douglas (Buddy) Rasmussen, 32, bartender
- Robert (Ronnie) Rosenthal
- Michael Wayne Scarborough, 27, steel worker, Glenn Green’s lover, hospitalized for injuries
- Fred Scharohway, 22, Earl Thomas’ lover, hospitalized for injuries
- Don Sherry
- Eugene Earl Thomas 42, Fred Scharohway’s lover, hospitalized for injuries
- I. R. (Bob) Vann, hospitalized for injuries
- Stephen Whittaker
- Peter — , bank clerk
- Harry —
I’ve never been to the Pacific Northwest area, but I’ve heard a great deal of praise for the region, especially Seattle. Aside from the weather (I’ve been told it’s quite a rainy region), it is apparently a great place to live. At least if you lean left. The city is viewed by many as a bastion of liberal progressivism where forward thinking people from all walks of life are welcome. Seattle is a ‘Welcoming City‘, where immigrants, refugees, and Muslims are accepted and embraced. It was voted one of the top 5 liberal cities in the country in 2014 and given that recreational marijuana is legal there, it’s not hard to understand why. Unlike the Southern U.S. where I dwell (and most of the country, for that matter), Seattle also has extensive public transit and [Hot Damn!] they were one of the first cities in the US to approve a $15/hour minimum wage. Anecdotally, I’ve been told the city is very friendly to transgender people, and with 9 top-rated HRC employers in Seattle, I can see why.
$15/hour, queer friendly businesses, and legal weed? Sounds good to me. There’s just one problem (well, there’s probably more, but for the purposes of this post, I’m focusing on just one). A problem that has existed in the Pacific Northwest dating back to its beginning. It’s a 500-lb. elephant in the room and is a blight on the liberal reputation of Seattle (as well as the greater Pacific Northwest). If you guessed racism, you are correct. To make matters worse, it appears as if many white liberals were tired of conservatives hogging the “I’m a racist asshole” Spotlight, and wanted their turn. It may surprise some to hear accusations of racism lobbed at liberals, but racial biases and prejudices are not limited solely to those on one end of the political spectrum. And while overt examples of individual race-based public or political* discrimination has diminished significantly** over the last half century or so, more subtle forms of racism, such as racial biases and prejudices, continue to thrive.
Such biases turned out to be quite at home among many of Seattle’s white liberals in the wake of a Black Lives Matter event last year. Conceived of by teachers across Seattle, the event–which was little more than teachers wearing Black Lives Matter t-shirts to school–hurt the fragile sensibilities of many liberal parents leading to a White Whine backlash.
Yesterday, I talked about my desire to develop a connection to queer heritage, culture, and history in the United States. There are so many people that have contributed to the struggle for the rights that I and millions of others currently enjoy. There are also those people who helped shape our culture and in some cases, help steer the course of US history. Beyond that, there are the places where queers gathered and loved, lived and died, and where they endured great trials and enjoyed amazing successes. Queer history in the US is more than facing down mob violence, defying “the man”, or pushing back against restrictive and prescriptive social norms regarding gender or sexuality. It is also about the quest for love and acceptance (internally and externally) in a harsh and uncaring world, as well as the formation and dissolution of the ties that bind us (whether socially, religiously, or politically). One incredibly important aspect of our history is the recognition among those in our community (and later, by society at large) that the right to ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ is our right as well; that our lives have value and that we are an important part of the fabric of this country.
I suspect it is that recognition–that we exist, that our lives matter, that we have value, that we are an essential part of the narrative of United States history–that played a role in the creation by the National Park Service of a multi-part (32 to be exact), peer-reviewed theme study into queer history. Megan Springate, the prime consultant for and editor of the LGBTQ theme study describes it thusly: Continue reading “Important Read! A theme study of LGBTQ history in the U.S.”